The Royal Academy Is Having A Russian Revolution

Revolution: Russian Art 1917-1932, Royal Academy of Arts ★★★★☆

Tabish Khan
By Tabish Khan Last edited 8 months ago

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The Royal Academy Is Having A Russian Revolution Revolution: Russian Art 1917-1932, Royal Academy of Arts 4
Lenin backed by the people in a room painted entirely in red. Can't get more Russian than that.

This year marks 100 years since the Russian Revolution. Given this, and the political changes here and across the world, it's an ideal time to revisit what happened in Russia a century ago. This exhibition covers the years after the Revolution, from 1917 to 1932.

The stairs leading to the exhibition are covered in a bright Russian-red carpet — a nice touch. Visitors enter to be greeted by what looks like one of Da Vinci's flying machines, but is in fact a glider, originally conceived by Vladimir Tatlin in the aspirational age that followed the Revolution.

The flying contraption, originally designed by Vladimir Tatlin, circles above us.

A red room displays a portrait of Lenin with a demonstration in the background, and another Escher-like painting of him surrounded by the people — adding to his image of the leader the people wanted. An adjacent statue of a heroic figure titled Flame of the Nation projects an equally powerful image.

An Escher-like depiction of Lenin. Here, he stands in the middle of the people.

From here on in it's pure propaganda, to the extent that we found ourselves humming the Russian national anthem unprompted as we explored the exhibition.

The intention of the Revolution was to give the power back to the workers, so it's not surprising to see plenty of artworks showing men and women hard at work. Even state porcelain was created with pictures of workers on it.

One of the many great paintings on display in this show.

The poster image for this exhibition is a powerful one; a Bolshevik strides forward to signify the strength of the masses — symbolic of what the Revolution stood for.

This exhibition shows both sides to the story, including artworks from the peasants' point of view, many of whom felt let down by the Revolution.

Soldiers prepare for the defence of Petrograd. Standing out against a grey sky and background.

One particular piece of propaganda looks down on the UK, suggesting that workers are mistreated in a Capitalist society and that this won't change until the workers take control.

There's so much to see in this exhibition including films, photography and an entire recreation of a design for an apartment in 1932. The apartment looks pretty good, even by today's standards:

An entire apartment features in the exhibition. It was designed in 1932 and has been recreated here.

There are plenty of paintings on show, including those by Kandinsky, and a whole room dedicated to  work by Malevich, who pioneered the move from the realistic to the more abstract, eventually culminating in the famous black square.

An entire section is rightly dedicated to the brilliant Malevich.

This massive exhibition is absorbing throughout. There are many brilliant works on display, and the art provides a remarkable insight into a pivotal moment in Russian history.

Revolution: Russian Art 1917-1932 at Royal Academy of Arts from 11 February - 17 April. Tickets are £18 for adults, concessions available.

Last Updated 08 February 2017